Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sweet America.... It's More Buffy

The legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie is finally having her mid-70s records released on CD on July 15th. I have been waiting for years for these truly wonderful albums to be properly transferred to CD. The three albums are “Sweet America,” “Changing Woman,” and “Buffy.” That’s 33 Buffy songs altogether…. Yippee!

But there’s more…. At the end of June Buffy’s all new original song CD “Running For The Drum” will be released. Her last CD of original material was 1992's critically acclaimed "Coincidence and Likely Stories."

Back in 1979 Buffy was a guest on Perry Como’s Christmas Special. In addition to singing a wonderful duet with Perry of her beautiful “Until It’s Time For You To Go,” she also debuted “Starwalker,” which is one of Buffy’s favorite songs. As Buffy said, "It’s about the incredible energy of our contemporary Indian people. Because of what our ancestors went through for us, I sing it for all our generations past; and all our generations yet to come.”

Here’s a YouTube clip of that very special television event.

If you haven’t discovered Buffy Sainte-Marie you need to click on over to iTunes and take a listen. You’ll be hooked.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Connection is Everything

In 2003 I saw writer/director Thomas McCarthy’s “The Station Agent” and thought it was an absolute gem. All the elements were right on the mark – the story, the acting, and the direction – earning “The Station Agent” a spot on my top-ten list for that year.

McCarthy has done it once again, even better, with his latest film “The Visitor.”

It’s the story of widowed college professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) who reluctantly travels into New York City to present a paper at a conference and discovers a young couple living in his apartment. He allows the couple, Syrian Tarek Khalil and Senegalese Zainab (Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira), to stay until they find another place to live. A friendship develops which forces Vale to step out of his comfort zone and to feel, to live again. Along the way he deals with identity, illegal immigrants, 9/11, and that special connection you share with someone even if it’s only for a short time.

McCarthy wisely employs non-Hollywood celebrities/stars and focuses on the story and the characters. Jenkins is perfectly cast as Vale, giving a nuanced performance that’s award worthy. The same goes for Sleimen who absolutely shines as Tarek.

“The Visitor” is one of those films that will have you thinking about it long after the credits roll.

I highly recommend this film with thumbs way up, five stars out of five, and a bushel of fresh tomatoes.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Quack Quack…. Quack

At work today the production accountant presented the joke-of-the-day (and yes, accountants can be funny). It made me laugh, so I share it with you:

Three ducks have been arrested and are standing before the judge.

The judge asks the first duck, “What’s your name and why were you arrested?”

“My name is Quack and I was caught blowing bubbles in the water."

The judge sentences Quack to six months out of the water. He asks the second duck, “What’s your name and why were you arrested?”

“My name is Quack Quack and I too was caught blowing bubbles in the water.”

The judge sentences Quack Quack to six months out of the water.

The judge looks at the third duck and says, “Are you gonna tell me your name is Quack Quack Quack.”“No sir, my name is Bubbles.”

Haha... Suddenly I have this urge to go swimming.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Red Dog Howled Saturday Night

The past month I’ve been to the theatre to see “Lady” and “The Lost Plays of Tennessee Williams.” Saturday night was yet another evening of theatre when I ventured over the hill to the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood to see “Red Dog Howls.”
All I knew about the play was that it’s about the Armenian genocide and it stars the incredibly talented Kathleen Chalfant. My expectations were quite high for a deeply emotional experience. What I got was something less than exciting, though the performances certainly rose above the overwrought script.

The basic premise of the play is a soon-to-be father discovers he has a grandmother whom he thought was deceased. Through their reconnection he learns deep dark family secrets about how the Armenian genocide irreparably changed his family history.

Unfortunately, this production is so leaden with unnecessary dialogue that the audience loses its connection to the main character, Michael Kiriakos (Matthew Rauch). Michael is constantly stepping into a solo spotlight speaking directly to the audience explaining the action and describing his feelings. It’s jarring and unnecessary.

By the time the pivotal scene comes when grandmother Vartouhi Afratian (the superb Kathleen Chalfant) breaks down in an emotional confession the audience isn’t fully invested in her story because the play’s momentum is too often broken by Michael’s self-indulgent monologues.

I commend the production for tackling the Armenian genocide as its subject. It’s a vitally important, and sadly forgotten, piece of history that demands attention.

“Red Dog Howls” has a compelling story and solid acting. What it needs is for playwright Alexander Dinelaris to trim the dialogue, delete the explanations, and allow the actors to do what they do best.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Three One-Acts on a Saturday Night

This past weekend was another weekend highlighted by a trip to the theatre. This time it was to see the “The Lost Plays of Tennessee Williams” presented by The Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center in Hollywood. Williams wrote these three one-acts during the course of his astounding career (his untimely death came in 1983) and were only recently discovered.

First was “Mister Paradise,” directed by Robert Burgos. Set in a squalid residence in the New Orleans French Quarter in 1942, it tells the bittersweet story of a long forgotten poet, Anthony Paradise (Jack Heller), and the unexpected visit from an adoring fan (Melissa Lechner). She’s insistent on using her connections to revive his career, but Paradise no longer has the energy or desire saying, “Death is the only thing that could save my reputation.” William’s brilliant dialogue is beautifully captured with nuanced performances from both Lechner and Heller.

Next was “The Palooka” which takes place in the 1930s in the dressing room of a boxing arena. It’s the story of an up-and-coming boxer who, while waiting for his match to begin, meets an older boxer, The Palooka, and discovers the harsh reality of what it’s like to be at the top of your game, to lose the fame, and to not accept when it’s over. This was the shortest of the one-acts, and though it was quite predictable, the performances and direction kept the audience enthralled.

The final piece brought the drama back to New Orleans for Mardi Gras weekend in the 1950s. “And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens” is the most ambitious and daring of the one-acts with impressive direction from Jack Heller. Brian Foyster plays transvestite Mr. “Candy” Delaney who brings home abusive seaman Karl (Chris Rydell) and refuses to heed the warnings of where this relationship is headed. This is Williams’ rare piece where he deals exclusively with gay characters and themes. It’s quite powerful, and Foyster’s portrayal of Candy’s desperation for love and attention is beautifully acted.

Tennessee William’s is regarded as one of America’s most brilliant playwrights. His body of work includes the Pulitzer Prize winning “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1948) and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1955), “The Glass Menagerie” (1945), and “The Night of the Iguana” (1961). In 1952 he won the Tony award for Best Play for “The Rose Tattoo.”

“The Lost Plays of Tennessee Williams” offers a glimpse into a brilliant man whose imprint on American theatre will last forever.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Joke of the Day

Working in a film production office often entails long hours, hard work, and dealing with "difficult" people. So to alleviate any tensions I've instituted the Joke of the Day.

It's quite simple: Every afternoon it's one employee's turn to tell a joke. It can be as simple as a "knock, knock" joke and it can be totally clean or totally blue. The only requisite is that you have to have the courage to tell it.

Yesterday it was my turn, and here's the joke I told:

A male patient is lying in a hospital bed wearing an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. A pretty, young, student nurse arrives to give him a partial sponge bath.

"Nurse," he mumbles from behind the mask. "Are my testicles black?"

Embarrassed, the young nurse replies, "I don't know, Sir. I'm only here to wash your upper body and feet."

He struggles to ask again. "Nurse, please check. Are my testicles black?"

Concerned that he may elevate his blood pressure and heart rate from worry about his testicles, she overcomes her embarrassment and pulls back the covers. She raises his gown, holds his manhood in one hand and his testicles in the other.

She takes a close look and says, "There's nothing wrong with them, Sir!"

The man pulls off his oxygen mask, smiles at her and says very slowly: "Thank you very much. That was wonderful, but, listen very, very closely......

A r e - m y - t e s t - r e s u l t s - b a c k ?"

The office laughed. Hope you did too.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Word of the Day…

The word for today is CANKLE.

Noun. Informal.

An unusually thick or stout ankle.